Rating all the Agatha Christie Books I’ve Read So Far

I’ve read 13 Agatha Christie novels this year (so far), not including an earlier reading of Murder on the Orient Express, and for a while I’ve wanted to do something more than the one review I did for Death on the Nile—but I have a difficult time coming up with how to assess these mystery books. Do I judge them by how well I guessed (or perhaps how well I didn’t guess) the murderer? Do I judge them on technical merits and originality, scrutinizing them more as an author than a reader? Do I judge them purely based on that hard-to-define and subjective thing called enjoyment? To be honest, I still don’t know the best way to approach them—so I’ve elected to speed rate them all, with a little bit of each of those metrics thrown in and with the disclaimer than my opinion could change tomorrow.

Warning—there might be spoilers for the follow titles: Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, And Then There Were None, Crooked House, The ABC Murders, Five Little Pigs, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Poirot Investigates, The Body in the Library, A Murder in Announced, Death in the Clouds, Peril at End House, and Dumb Witness. If you want to avoid spoiling any of the plots, proceed with caution!

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Murder on the Orient Express

I committed the classic blunder: I watched the movie before I read the book! So it’s hard for me to judge whether I would’ve guessed this very clever solution to the murder or not (I want to say I would, but I think that’d just be my ego talking). Nevertheless, this book has so many good things going for it: a plot that makes you think on your toes, lots of twists, and a unique, atmospheric location that adds to the suspense—it’s the only Christie book I’ve read where the cast is trapped in one location for practically the whole story (only Death on the Nile comes close to that setup). There’s a reason this is one of the most famous of the Poirot series—so on account of that merit, as well as the enjoyment I still got out of the book despite knowing how it ended, I’ll give it 4.5/5 stars.

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Death on the Nile

This was the first Christie book where I came close to guessing the murderer (I got one part of the couple who did the crime), and for that alone I remember this story with immense pleasure. However, this book is also just so well crafted—the central conflict is complex and very human, the cast is large but still distinct, and the setting is vibrantly painted and integrated into the story in a significant way. There’s a note at the beginning of my edition from Christie that states she was inspired by her own travels to Egypt, and I think her first-hand experiences shows. I did write a proper book review for Death on the Nile, so if you want more details check out that post. But it shouldn’t be any surprise that I give this book 5/5 stars.

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The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Perhaps I wasn’t quite experienced enough to solve the crime, as this was only my third foray into the world of Christie mysteries, but to say I was flabbergasted by the ending was an understatement. If you know, you know. That’s one of the reasons I give this book 5/5 stars, but that’s not the only reason it’s one of my favorites thus far. For those who aren’t extremely fond of Poirot, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is one of his stories where he doesn’t show up until later—and because the narrator is not Hastings (but fills a very similar role), we also don’t follow Poirot around the entire time once he does show up; yet, for those who do like the famous Belgian detective, there’s still plenty of his usual quirks and brilliant deductions to be satisfactory. TMoRA also has a very British feeling to it, with a full atmosphere and quirky, intriguing little cast of characters (I especially found the narrator’s relationship with his gossipy spinster sister to be enjoyable). I didn’t include spoilers because I really hope readers who haven’t tried this book will (and it’s no fun if you know what’s coming)!

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And Then There Were None

If Murder on the Orient Express is the most famous Poirot title, then And Then There Were None is the most famous of Christie’s standalone novels. And, in a similar vein, I unfortunately pseudo-spoiled the ending for myself—not by watching an adaptation, but by reading a plot summary many years ago that slowly resurfaced in my mind as I sped through this novel. Still, because the answer wasn’t immediately in my mind, I was able to enjoy all of the dark and twisty turns of ATTWN—and there were many! Even though the plot revolves around a nursery rhyme (conveniently presented at the start of the novel), guessing just how the next stanza will be made to come about is far from easy, and my mind was constantly engaged trying to sort things out. Best of all, when you get to the end and get an explanation for what just happened, those hints that you likely missed become instantly apparent—which is one sign that the foreshadowing was sufficient but still carefully shrouded to avoid the obvious. Also, because this book doesn’t have the “cozy mystery” factor of Poirot or Miss Marple stories, the atmosphere is more suspenseful and the themes take on a more obvious presence (which I always enjoy). For all these reasons, this title also gets 4.5/5 stars.

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Crooked House

Another of Christie’s standalones, Crooked House has a very Gothic quality to it: a rich business man is murdered, and only someone in his family (who all conveniently live in the same, strangely-built house) could’ve done it. The narrator—the boyfriend of one of the murdered man’s granddaughters—decides to help his father (a detective) get to the bottom of the case by slipping his way into the family and seeing if he can find the truth. The result is quite compelling—and also has a lot in common with the book We Have Always Lived in the Castle. In fact, having read that book, its plot continued surfacing in my mind as I read Crooked House—and as much as I tried to ignore the parallels, they ended up being correct (if you know, you know)! I count that as a partial win for me. Because of the similarities between the two books, a bit of the novelty of Crooked House was lost for me, but I still give the book 4.5/5 stars because of how compelling the other elements were.

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The ABC Murders

This book is such a tough one for me to rate. Its plot is impeccably created, and the scale of the crimes—a serial killer who strikes at different locations—makes The ABC Murders stand out from many of the other Christie books I’ve read. I also remember being glued to the page as I read, not wanting to put it down so I could discover the culprit as soon as possible. But, on the other hand, TABCM hasn’t lingered in my mind in the same way some of the other books have (particularly some of the other Poirot ones). Looking back, I wonder if there’s some technical plot issue that perhaps didn’t make the payoff at the end as shocking or spectacular, in spite of the otherwise excellent crafting. At this point I don’t quite know. I’m a bit torn about giving it 4/5 stars, though I’d still recommend the book—I think it mostly lived up to its reputation as being one of the best.

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Five Little Pigs

I don’t know if I’d call this my favorite Christie mystery, but Five Little Pigs is definitely high on my list and has lingered in my mind more than I expected. The suspense is very low, as Poirot is tasked with solving a murder that happened many years before in an effort to clear a young woman’s mother’s tarnished name (and put that young woman’s mind to rest about the tragedy that befell her parents). There are two series of interviews that follow: one in person, and one written, as each of the five subjects write an account of the day of the murder. Then Poirot gathers the five together for a classic “big reveal.” There’s so much psychology to observe in this slower-paced book, and the ending was at first surprising—and then, it makes complete sense! The combination of family drama and the passage of time, along with the clever crafting of Miss Christie, made this book an easy 5/5 stars for me.

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The Mysterious Affair at Styles

The first of the Poirot series of mysteries, The Mysterious Affair at Styles has everything quintessential about the Belgian detective’s stories: a very English setting and cast, a murder of an elderly relative, a long list of potential suspects, a host of red herrings, and a conclusion you feel like you should’ve seen coming from the start! I thoroughly enjoyed this one, although it did lack a bit of novelty in regards to cast and setting compared to some of the other books on this list. Thus, I give TMAaS 4.5/5 stars.

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Poirot Investigates

I picked up this collection of short stories on a whim and overall really enjoyed them, especially since Poirot not only took on murderers but also jewel thieves, kidnappers, and more. It was nice to have a change of pace in that regard, and nice to reach the conclusions within the span of minutes rather than hours. However, I do think I prefer the longer, more complex plotting and characterization that only a novel can facilitate, so I give Poirot Investigates only a 4/5 stars.

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The Body in the Library

My first foray into the world of Miss Marple, The Body in the Library did not disappoint in the slightest—and on reflection, may just have one of the least predictable solutions out of the bunch. A young woman’s body is discovered one morning in the library of an old estate, much to the surprise of the house’s owners. Clues lead back to a hotel where the young woman danced, and where the victim’s connections to family and friends are not at all what they seem at first—and soon, the addition of a missing-person-turned-murder complicates the first crime even more. My only complaint about this book is that Miss Marple herself doesn’t play a huge role, but the intrigue of the story mostly makes up for her absence. I give TBitL 5/5 stars.

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A Murder is Announced

A Murder is Announced was my second Marple mystery, and my only other one to date (though I plan to change that soon). The English atmosphere of some of Christie’s other stories returns, as members of a small community read a murder announcement as they flip through their morning newspaper. Indeed, a murder does occur, and the strangeness of the circumstances set of a chain of events that spiral into chaos until the culprit is caught. While I really enjoyed this book, I found the solution to almost be too easy—thought perhaps that’s because I picked up on the right clues early on. The majority of the book is solid, however, so I give it an equally solid 4/5 stars.

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Death in the Clouds

I’m very proud to say I guessed the murderer right long before the ending—there’s a little rush in knowing you picked up on the right clues at the same time Poirot did! The main scenario also kept my attention throughout the book: a woman is murdered during a plane ride, supposedly by a poison dart blower, but the space is so small that anyone using said blowpipe would be sure to be seen. How, then, did the murderer do it? Objectively, this isn’t the most complex or twisty of the books on this list, but nevertheless I give it 4.5/5 stars (perhaps that extra .5 stars is just my personal satisfaction).

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Peril at End House

Oh, I feel torn about this book. On one hand, this book has a lot of objective plot merits, a vivid and fun setting, and a cast of mostly interesting characters, particularly the central figure of the mystery, Nick Buckley. However, I think I would’ve enjoyed this book a lot more than I did if I hadn’t read A Murder is Announced beforehand—because while all the elements surrounding the mystery are different, the solution at the end is nearly identical, so there wasn’t a very big rush of excitement when I got to the final pages. I’m also going to give PaEH 4/5 stars, with the note that anyone who’s read the book (or really doesn’t care about spoilers) should try the adaptation from the Poirot TV series.

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Dumb Witness

In another case of similarity, Dumb Witness shares a few with Five Little Pigs: a murder investigated after the fact, and a series of interviews from the five people closest to the victim in order to deduce the identity of the murderer. What DW has uniquely is the presence of a dog, Bob, who Hastings comically “talks” to during the investigation, and an altogether different solution to the crime than FLP—thankfully avoiding the problem I ran into with AMiA and PaEH. I also found the psychology of this crime to be particularly interesting, perhaps in how reasonable it seemed once the mystery was solved. However, for as much as I liked this book, I didn’t love it, so I’m going to give it 4/5 stars.

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I suspect (pun intended) that I’ve hit most of Christie’s best works, so in a way I worry that it’s all downhill from here. Nevertheless, I am going to continue my little reading spree, and in the future may do another one of these rapid-fire reviews again. In the meantime, have you read any of these books—and if so, which ones did you enjoy most?

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